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Independence Day Waterfalls

posted Jul 8, 2016, 9:20 AM by Justin P   [ updated Jul 30, 2016, 2:34 PM ]

Last weekend, I headed to the mountains to see High Falls on West Fork Tuckasegee during the whitewater release.  Sandy had to work, so I didn’t stay through the Independence Day holiday.  I left Friday night and stayed at the Econo Lodge in Waynesville.  It's a budget hotel, so nothing fancy, but the views from the room were very nice.

Saturday morning, I headed towards Lake Glenville, arriving at the parking area around 9.  After getting my stuff together, I started out along the path.  This trail is through private property, but the landowner is nice enough to allow people to hike to the falls.  The rosebay rhododendron were blooming all along the trail.

In about 1.5 miles, I made a quick detour to see Thurston Hatcher or Rough Run Falls.  The waterfall is on posted private property, but it’s possible to see it from the creek.  Before the dam is opened, the water level is low enough to rock hop out into the creek and see the falls on the opposite side.

It would not be possible to do this after the dam opens.  After a couple pictures, I finished the hike up High Falls and found a spot to sit and wait from the opening.

As usual, it got quite crowded as it approached 10 o’clock.  At around 1020, the water started.  As the water level increased, the wind and mist increased and soon it was too wet for any more pictures.

Here's a video of the water release:

YouTube Video

I headed a little further back and rested at a big rock to enjoy the view for a little longer.  A couple kayakers got in the water and started the extremely difficult paddle down the river.  One flipped and was unable to roll over.  Eventually he got out of his kayak and went downstream a bit before another kayaker was able to rescue him.  By 11, I was heading back to the car.  I drove north back towards Cullowhee and turned right on Caney Fork Road.  I was originally planning to head to the waterfalls on Sugar Creek, but the road condition wasn’t great and I didn’t know if I could make it in my Corolla.  So I continued on a little further on Caney Fork Road and parked right after the road changed to gravel.  I got my stuff together and backtracked a short ways on the road and turned left on Rough Butt Road, a small gravel drive.  In less than a quarter-mile, the road comes to a crossing of Caney Fork.  There used to be a bridge, but it washed away in a storm.  I forded the creek here and continued following the old road (FSR-4669) up along a ridge over Caney Fork.  Shortly, the road curved to the right and came to a crossing of Rough Butt Creek.  I forded again here and climbed up a steep bank on the opposite side.  There was a faint path following Rough Butt Creek upstream to the waterfall.  This waterfall is not real high, but was very scenic, even in low water.  I had to wade to the opposite side of the creek for a good view of the waterfall.

Then I made my way back.  Back at the car, I decided to try and get Piney Mountain and Bearwallow Falls while I was here.  I continued on Caney Fork Road and soon turned right on Forest Road 4666.  It was almost three miles to where I would get off the trail and a grueling uphill hike almost the entire way.  There was no one else out here, except for a couple of hunting dogs.  After passing the gate on FSR-4666, I got off the trail and started bushwhacking down to the confluence of Piney Mountain and Bearwallow Creeks.  It was a very challenging bushwhack, and since I was alone in a very remote area, I decided to give up and head back for personal safety.  Especially after my encounter with yellow jackets the weekend previous.

I’ll get these two waterfalls another time when I’m not alone.  Back at the car, I drove into Waynesville and had dinner at Tipping Point Tavern and then went back to the hotel.  I took a quick dip in the pool before retiring for the evening.  Sunday morning, I checked out of the hotel.  I was originally planning to meet friends in South Carolina for the holiday, but wasn’t feeling well, so decided to just go home.  Then Sandy and I could spend Independence Day together.  Past Asheville, I decided to stop at Catawba Falls on the way home.  I hadn’t been here in a couple years and they finally finished the bridge to the parking lot.  I could park in the lot instead of on the side of the road.  Catawba Falls is very popular so glad I got there early; there were only a few cars in the parking lot when I arrived.  From the parking lot, I set off on the Catawba Falls Trail, rock-hopping the river and then following the trail upstream.  After crossing Clover Patch Branch, I found a steep path leading down to a view of Lower Catawba Falls.

Although I’ve been here before several times, I had never been down to see this one.  Kevin Adams mentions this one is his new book.  Although overshadowed by the much larger Catawba and Upper Catawba Falls, this is a nice waterfall.  A cave to the right of the falls made a nice scene, even in the low water level.  Past here was the old dam and then I continued to the base of Catawba Falls.  The water level was low, so this waterfall was definitely not looking its best.

I got a couple pictures and then took the steep path up towards Upper Catawba Falls.  I passed a couple of people on my way up; the high temperature and humidity made the climb that much more strenuous.  By the time I got to Upper Catawba Falls, I was alone and sat and enjoyed the view for a while.

The upper falls is my favorite here and was beautiful even in low water.  There was rosebay rhododendron blooming around the falls.

As I was heading back, I again passed the people I had seen earlier.  They had given up and were heading back.  I made it back to the car before 11 and it was a little too early to head home.  So I drove through Old Fort and parked at the Old Fort Picnic Area in Pisgah National Forest.  From here, I got on the Youngs Ridge Trail heading up towards Kitsuma Peak.  This was a really grueling hike.  It was all uphill and the heat and humidity made it just miserable.  There was almost no breeze and no creek to cool off in.  It took a while, but I made it to the summit of Kitsuma Peak.  There’s a campsite here, but too many trees for any sort of view.

Exploring around a bit, I found some cliffs just down from the summit that had a nice view west towards Black Mountain.

I relaxed here for a little while and then started making my way back.  It was mostly downhill the whole way, but still strenuous in the heat.  Back at the car, I decided to get one more waterfall before I left.  I drove east on US-70 from Old Fort and turned left on Curtis Creek Road and drove to the campground.  I got on the Hickory Branch Trail (#213), following the trail up and down a ridge to its namesake creek.  After crossing the creek twice, I got off the trail and followed a path to the base of Hickory Branch Falls.  Even in the low water, this was still a scenic waterfall.

A tree had fallen right into the middle of it, so I got to the other side of the creek for a picture.  Then I headed back to the car and started making my way home.